Takeover shores up U.S. lobbying giant Patton Boggs

Fri May 23, 2014 10:45pm EDT
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By Casey Sullivan and David Ingram

(Reuters) - Troubled U.S. lobbying giant Patton Boggs avoided a financial cliff on Friday when a larger law firm agreed to acquire many of its partners and its name, which for decades was synonymous with influence in Washington, D.C.

The acquisition of Patton Boggs by Squire Sanders, a firm with roots in Ohio, followed furious talks that a day earlier appeared on the verge of collapse.

Late on Friday, the two firms announced they had reached a deal, concluding negotiations that had stretched back at least to February. They said they would begin operating under the name Squire Patton Boggs effective June 1.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the combined entity would rank 23rd among U.S. law firms with more than $1 billion in revenue, according to financial figures in the American Lawyer and a Patton Boggs memo obtained by Reuters.

Patton Boggs was viewed by many in the legal industry, including former partners, as being in need of a rescue, despite a storied history of representing U.S. presidential campaigns, major corporations and governments around the world. Its revenues were slipping and its headcount had shrunk by about half since 2011, down to 300 lawyers.

The firm's problems included becoming entangled in a complex case in which Ecuadorean villagers sought to enforce an $18 billion pollution judgment against Chevron Corp (CVX.N: Quote). Once seen by the firm as a potential source of lucrative legal fees, the case became a liability and Patton Boggs agreed this month to pay the oil company a $15 million settlement after a court found the judgment had been obtained fraudulently.

Its problems also stemmed from the drying up of one major case, defending New York City against health-related claims by firefighters and emergency workers who responded to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, several former Patton Boggs partners said.

Its revenue dropped by 12 percent from 2012 to 2013, to $278 million, according to figures in an internal memo obtained by Reuters in January, and the firm hired restructuring advisers.   Continued...

A general view of the front entrance for law firm Patton Boggs LLC, in Washington, March 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler